On a team full of superstars, no player's arrival may be more anticipated that cornerback Aqib Talib. The former first-round pick of the Buccaneers was traded to New England nearly two weeks ago. And now, after a well-timed bye, Talib will almost certainly get a chance to show off some of his cover-corner skills in a secondary desperate for them.
On Wednesday, coach Bill Belichick spoke in generalities about Talib.
"We’re just trying to catch him up," he said. Three days in a row he’s been in here early, working hard, trying to get caught up. We’ll see how it goes."
How it goes will in all likelihood be a huge improvement over the status quo. (In case you're wondering why the Bucs would trade such a good player, Talib arrives in Foxboro with enough off-field baggage to make Albert Haynesworth, Randy Moss and Corey Dillon to all do double-takes.)
Here's a fun fact courtesy of SI.com's Peter King talking about the Pats: "Still a generous defense, but as long as the Patriots keep scoring in the 30s every week, the wins will keep coming. They'll get in trouble for it in January, though. Opposing passers have produced more touchdowns than Tom Brady, 19-18."
That's an insane statistic. And one that will change with Talib now roaming the defensive backfield. So what exactly does he bring to the table?
“He’s never afraid he’s going to get beat," NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots told the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian. "It’s not even a remote possibility in his mind. That’s what he has. He plays with a certain boldness. He has a swagger. He’s going to get the ball. He doesn’t play with the fear factor.”
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss suspects Talib could be tabbed to cover the Colts' best receiver, Reggie Wayne.
“He’s in motion a lot, he’s blocking, he’s cracking, he’s lining up close to the formation, he’s in the slot. He’s doing a lot of things that Hines Ward did in Pittsburgh,” Belichick said of Wayne. “It’s interesting to see him in that role, but he’s always been good at whatever he’s done. You see him working the middle of the field on middle reads, on option routes, that kind of thing or working on the perimeter. He’s good at all of it.”
We're eager to see how Talib responds. Belichick has a spotty track record when it comes to taking on great players with questionable decision-making skills. The aforementioned Dillon and Moss were godsends while Haynesworth and Chad Johnson didn't work out. But given the cost (the Pats sent a 2013 fourth-rounder to Tampa Bay and got Talib and a seventh-rounder in return) -- and the sorry state of the secondary -- it's a risk worth taking.